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What first drew me to Mim’s work, is the gorgeous textures.

For me, the texture of a piece is what brings it to life and gives it personality, and I think that’s what it is about Mim’s work that makes it so special.

I can’t believe that where she first started her jewellery training is right across the road from my hairdressers, or that she gets her most creative ideas in the evening (just like me!)

Another crazy fact about her is that she once worked on a Wallace and Gromit film!

Read below to find out what makes her tick…

First things first, let’s get to know you… tea or coffee? How do you take it?

I stopped having any caffeine about a year ago now so I drink Redbush and herbal teas mainly.  I still love a coffee, but I’ll have a decaf instead now with some sort of non-dairy milk.

How would you describe your jewellery?

Elegant, delicate, well made, fashion-forward and timeless.  Modern jewellery with an ancient twist. It’s important to me that my jewellery is somewhere in the middle of being both fashion-forward and timeless in design (if that’s at all possible). A slight contradiction I know!

What materials do you use?

Over the years I’ve worked with lots of different materials. When I was a student I was obsessed with making jewellery out of non-precious materials such as concrete, wood and perspex.  Now I just work mainly with recycled silver and gold and I love to incorporate colour with the use of precious beads and gemstones, seeking to find ethically sourced materials wherever possible.

Where do you create your jewellery?

I’m lucky enough to have my studio at home although it’s a very tiny space.  We have a small lean-to conservatory at the back of our house with a glass roof so there’s plenty of natural light and I can leave my mess out and lock the door at the end of the day.  

Our house is south facing though, so it can get a bit much in the summer.  I love working from home, I can listen to music or podcasts and tinker into the night if I need to, although I try not to do that as much these days.

Photo by Egle Vasi

How did you come to live in Bristol? Whereabouts in Bristol do you live?

I live in a very diverse, multicultural area of Bristol near the centre, which attracts creative types and young families. There’s a great sense of community.  We’ve lived here for about 13 years, but I first moved to Bristol in 1998 when I finished my degree. I used to visit a lot when I was a student as some of my closest friends were at university here and I fell in love with it instantly.  It is a very laid back, vibrant and creative city and I love its location and how it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside.

What inspires you?

Anything that’s a bit different!  I love looking for inspiration in mundane places where you would least expect it. 

I’m drawn to just about anything that has details, shape, pattern, colour and texture but I do find myself constantly referring back to jewellery for inspiration. I’m completely obsessed.  I love contemporary design in all its forms but I am particularly drawn to ancient, antique, ethnic and tribal Jewellery, pieces from another place or time that are both geographically and culturally out of reach. 

The craftsmanship and the design tends to be more complex and meaningful, you can learn a lot simply from examining how such pieces are made.  Particular favourite styles include Egyptian, African and Indian for their use of shapes and ornate detail as well as the colours that are commonly used.  I’m also a big lover of music, art, fashion and textiles, photography, cinematography and good craftsmanship obviously.

What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?

I don’t really have a particular favourite or best that I’m most proud of to be honest.  Some of the bespoke pieces I have done in recent years are probably amongst my favourites, there’s a few.

I did make a headdress for PJ Harvey back in 2008 and although it was technically very simple to make I think it looked really striking on her and it was obviously a great feeling to see her onstage wearing my work. That was definitely a career highlight that made me feel quite proud because I think she’s amazing, it was such an honour!

Where did you learn to create jewellery?

I always knew I wanted to make jewellery ever since I was about six years old. I was always making things and tinkering around with wire and pliers, so I guess I taught myself up until about the age of 16.  

My mum’s an artist/model-maker/hoarder so there was no shortage of materials to play around with at home and she was always very encouraging.  After I left school I went to Bournville Art college in Birmingham, where I had my first lessons in metal-working. My tutor was Laura Potter, a conceptual artist/jeweller who had not long graduated herself, she was hugely inspirational to me.  

There were only about three people in our class who wanted to do metal-work/jewellery and the other two didn’t seem that interested so I was very fortunate to have a lot of one-on-one tuition with Laura.  This was a golden time for me, as I’d waited a long time to make proper jewellery. I had an unquenchable thirst to learn and I just couldn’t get enough.  

I then went on to study Applied Arts at Derby University where I started experimenting a lot with different materials, incorporating mixed media with precious metals.  It was only really after leaving university when I began working full time for Diana Porter in her workshop that the proper learning began.

Photo by Egle Vasi

You worked with Diana Porter after graduating, how was that?

It was a great experience and I feel very thankful to her for giving me that opportunity when I first left college back in 1998, and for supporting me now in my solo career. 

It was down to luck really, I was in the process of moving to Bristol and I noticed an advert in a local magazine for a junior workshop assistant.  The day after I moved I went along for a trial day and ended up staying there for 20 years on and off. Initially I left as I was offered a model making contract with Aardman Animations, which I pursued for a few years before returning.  

Diana is a very inspirational woman and has always attracted great team members. When I first started the business was based in her house, the collection and the whole operation was much smaller.  It’s been amazing to see how her business has grown and developed over the years, I’ve learnt so much and I’ve been really fortunate to work with some very talented and wonderful people.

What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?

I feel genuinely honoured and privileged to be able to design and make jewellery for people, bespoke pieces especially.  People bring along sentimental jewellery and share stories with you that are sometimes quite personal or emotional, perhaps about a loved one or their family history. 

It’s an amazing feeling seeing customers’ reactions to their finished piece and watching them walk away, knowing that item will be loved and cherished for generations to come.

There’s usually a lot of problem solving in the early stages of designing, that’s the part that gets me excited and keeps me awake at night. Jewellery is such a vast subject, there are literally no limits to broadening your knowledge or your skillset.  There is always more to learn regardless of how long you have been making, that’s what excites me the most.

What would you do if you weren’t a jewellery designer?

I think I would definitely be a visual artist of some sort.  Perhaps a sign writer or a set painter. I love to paint although I never ever have time anymore. You need time to daydream. 

What’s your design process?

I’m a big fan of drawing, so I always have a sketchbook on the go.  I have many books on my shelf that I’ve collected over the years which I hardly ever look at (ironically) but they’re very useful to log my ideas as I have such a bad memory. 

I like to play a lot with different processes and I keep a box which is full of experiments and bits and pieces.  Some designs are simply based on making processes that I enjoy. Because there’s often a lot of repetition involved when reproducing a collection. 

If I don’t enjoy making a certain piece then it’s unlikely I’ll want to make it again. Many ideas get reworked or abandoned. I love to design one-off pieces by firstly choosing a special stone and then using its shape, colour and proportions as the starting point. 

What do you love about jewellery?

Jewellery’s an accessible and universal art form used to enhance our appearance and express one’s individuality. What attracts us to it is very personal. 

I love how when worn a piece can transform how you look or feel. It’s the finishing touch of an outfit – a focal point, no matter how big or small. Over time it becomes more an extension of oneself. Regardless of its material value, it becomes priceless growing more important, symbolic and sentimental (to the wearer) with age.

Why did you fall in love with jewellery design?

I’ve always been obsessed with tiny details and anything miniature, I think I get this from my mum.  As a child I was a real magpie too and from a very early age I was collecting silver jewellery.  

I was always looking out for shiny things and collecting ‘street treasure’ and found objects and trying to make something out of nothing.  It was my mum that suggested I became a jeweller, as this married all of my interests. I guess I started designing my own because I was always frustrated with the choice, I could never quite find what I was looking for.

What are your aspirations for your business?

I would love to study Gemmology.  In time I’d like to move more into fine jewellery and go bigger and bolder in design and make more adventurous, larger scale art pieces in solid Gold with lots of stones. Who knows?! I really want to enjoy my kids too while they’re young. So I’m happy to just let it grow organically for now and see what happens. 

Where do you feel most inspired?

At the bench first and foremost.  But St Ives in Cornwall is also an inspirational place for me and my family, and it’s the reason I first became interested in making jewellery.  There’s a jeweller you can watch at work in the Sloop craft market. As a young child I’d spend ages watching in complete awe whilst they worked.  Of course now St. Ives has become extremely popular, so I now like to go out of season to avoid the crowds.  

I also love Wales, my partner grew up in Pembrokeshire, so we go there as often as we can. I guess peace and quiet’s becoming increasingly important to me. Anywhere where I can switch my brain off and daydream a bit is desirable. I feel lucky because I’m never really short of inspiration. Weirdly, I get a lot of my ideas late at night whilst watching TV or a film (which is kind of inconvenient). 

What’s your favourite jewellery making technique?

My stamping technique for texturing the metal is probably my favourite as it’s really fun to do and there are infinite possibilities. I also love threading on the little beads, adding movement and a bit of colour for the finishing touch. But there are often many different processes involved before I get to that point.  I guess it’s a bit like baking a cake, the fun part is in the decorating.

Jewellers often have to work quite flexible hours, how does that fit in with the rest of your life?

As I am a mum of two, being self employed suits me well. I can plan my work around the school day and the holidays (up to a point) and working from home makes my life a lot easier too. As I’m constantly juggling mum duties and work, I don’t really stop.  

Life admin can sometimes eat into my working day though, so discipline is incredibly important. I definitely work better later in the day, but I try not to work in the evenings now because my eyes get very tired. It’s great to have the option though, if I need to.

Are you like Mim? Are there certain times of the day that you feel more creative, and have more ideas?  Just like Mim, I find I ‘come to life’ at night. Or that’s how my husband puts it anyway! I become much more productive after 9pm at night.  Which is unfortunate, as that means a late night. And as I have two small children, I don’t get to make up for the sleep first thing in the morning!

What about you? Are you a morning person, evening person? Or is there another time when you feel at your most creative?

You can read more about Mim’s work here.

Victoria
vrichards81@hotmail.com
Hi I'm Victoria - journalist, jewellery designer and comms/pr expert. I'm obsessed with original, contemporary jewellery and helping other designers create successful businesses to help spread the jewellery joy! I'm also completely addicted to pancakes.
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